WIMBLEDON, England — Unlike Roger Federer in addition to also also Rafael Nadal’s duel into the twilight on Centre Court in 2008, their match Friday was not a contender for the greatest match of all time.
although This specific had its moments, both transcendent in addition to also also surprising, in addition to also also This specific also had a different finish.
Nadal won the 2008 final at Wimbledon, prevailing by 9-7 from the fifth set in something much closer to darkness than daylight.
Federer won the 2019 rematch from the semifinals, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, finishing This specific off on his fifth match point by playing as boldly as he had through start to finish.
The victory earned Federer, 37, a chance to renew another great rivalry: This specific one with Novak Djokovic, the earth No. 1, in Sunday’s final.
[Read Christopher Clarey’s column about Federer’s win over Nadal.]
Djokovic advanced earlier from the afternoon on Centre Court having a hard-fought, four-set victory of his own over Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Djokovic, the defending champion, has won four Wimbledon singles titles. Federer has won eight, the men’s record. He is usually the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon final since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall lost to Jimmy Connors in 1974.
Djokovic has played Federer 47 times in addition to also also beaten him in 25 of those matches. Federer has not defeated Djokovic since 2015, in addition to also also lost two of their three matches at Wimbledon — the finals in 2014 in addition to also also 2015.
Friday’s semifinal results ensure that will the Big Three of Federer, Nadal in addition to also also Djokovic will retain their hold on Grand Slam titles. They have combined to win 11 in a row. Federer has the men’s record with 20 major championships, followed by Nadal’s 18 in addition to also also Djokovic’s 15.
Should we look forward to the U.S. Open?
This specific year has ended some significant droughts from the Federer-Nadal rivalry. After nearly two years of not playing each additional, Federer in addition to also also Nadal have met twice in all 5 weeks. They had gone 11 years without playing at Wimbledon. They had gone eight years between matches at the French Open before Nadal won their semifinal last month. They have somehow never faced each additional at the United States Open. is usually This specific the year?
FOURTH set | Federer WINS, 6-4
Nadal goes down fighting.
Nadal saved Federer’s first two match points on his own serve, in addition to also also with Federer serving for the match from the next game, Nadal earned a break point when a backpedaling Federer could not corral an overhead smash. Federer saved the break point having a sharply knifed backhand slice, which Nadal could not lift back over the net.
Federer’s next two match points were saved with stellar play by Nadal. The first was a 24-shot rally in which Nadal was able to eventually plant his feet in addition to also also hit a clean forehand winner down the line. On the second, Nadal hit a cross-court backhand winner.
The fifth match point was the charm for Federer, who forced a backhand error long through Nadal to end the match. He celebrated by punching the air in triumph.
“I’m exhausted,” Federer told the BBC. “This specific was tough at the end. Rafa played some unbelievable shots to stay from the match.”
The victory continues a remarkable chapter in their storied rivalry, which has suddenly swung hard in Federer’s favor.
Once trailing by 23-10 in their head-to-head, Federer has since won six of his last seven matches against Nadal.
Fourth set | Federer 5, Nadal 4
Nadal saves two match points.
On the brink of defeat, Nadal saved two Federer match points to hold serve for 4-5 from the fourth set, winning the longest game of the match so far. The most pivotal points for Nadal from the 16-point game were the shortest: he saved Federer’s first match point having a strong 121 m.p.h. serve down the middle, then the second having a sliding 103 m.p.h. serve out wide, neither of which Federer could return.
Nadal then closed out the hold with an ace. Federer will at This specific point serve for a spot from the final.
Fourth set | Federer 5, Nadal 3
Federer closes in on a victory.
Federer maintained the break advantage he earned early from the fourth set, in addition to also also at This specific point leading 5-3, one game through booking his spot from the Wimbledon final.
There have been four straight holds since Federer broke for 2-1. After Nadal gained a slight edge by winning a 26-shot rally, the longest of the match, Federer dug out of a 15-30 deficit from the sixth game. Federer continued pressing from the seventh game, including chasing down a short Nadal shot for an improbable backhand winner, although Nadal held.
Federer quickly followed suit, holding for 5-3, finishing with two unreturned serves.
Fourth set | Federer 3, Nadal 1
Federer takes an early lead from the third set.
Federer has carried his momentum into the fourth set, breaking Nadal from the third game to put himself up, 2-1. He held easily from the next game to go ahead by 3-1.
Federer has found range on his groundstrokes, pressing Nadal with consistently deep hitting. Counter to most assumptions about This specific matchup, Federer is usually benefiting when points grow longer: He has won 35 of 60 rallies that will last all 5 or more shots.
Third set | Federer wins, 6-3
Federer dominates the third set.
After dropping the second set, Federer claimed an emphatic third set to put himself one set through the Wimbledon final.
Federer calmly closed out the set, 6-3, after squandering advantages in his previous two return games. In three games, he held serve without Nadal winning any points. Nadal won only all 5 points during Federer’s serve from the set.
The not bad news continues for Federer: Nadal has never come back to win against him after trailing by two sets to one.
Third set | Federer 5, Nadal 2
Federer maintains his momentum.
After losing the second set, 6-1, Federer looked on his way to handing Nadal an equally lopsided loss of the third set, going up by 4-1 in addition to also also holding two break points for a 5-1 lead from the sixth game.
Nadal fought back, however, saving the first having a service winner in addition to also also drawing an error on Federer’s backhand for the second, eventually holding for 2-4 with an 123 m.p.h. serve down the middle.
Federer quickly held the next game to squash any possible momentum swing, going up by 5-2 having a backhand volley winner.
Third set | Federer 4, Nadal 1
Federer pulls ahead from the third set.
After being trounced from the second set, Federer commenced the third with renewed purpose, holding his first two service games to love.
He then cracked Nadal’s serve for the very first time from the match, converting his fourth break point of the day having a backhand volley winner to end a 12-shot exchange in addition to also also go up by 3-1 from the third set.
The advantage was quickly endangered: Federer went down, 15-40, from the next game. He saved the first break point with relative ease, putting away a smash winner. He survived the second on a nail-biting 23-shot rally, the longest of the match, finally drawing a forced error through Nadal’s backhand. After saving one more break point, Federer held for 4-1, putting himself commandingly ahead from the third set.
Third set | Federer 2, Nadal 1
Nadal has the edge over Federer in major semifinals.
For much of their careers, Federer in addition to also also Nadal took turns at No. 1 in addition to also also No. 2 from the rankings, so they could only meet in tournament finals. This specific is usually the only the fifth time they have faced each additional in a Grand Slam semifinal, in addition to also also Nadal has won them all — at the French Open in 2005 in addition to also also 2019 in addition to also also the Australian Open in 2012 in addition to also also 2014.
SECOND set | NADAL WINS, 6-1
Nadal pounces on Federer’s poor form.
After dropping the first set in addition to also also leaving the court, Nadal ran away with the second set, taking This specific 6-1 in 37 minutes to level the match.
Nadal had break-point chances in all three Federer service games in addition to also also broke him twice to take a commanding lead.
Federer’s frustration surfaced from the final game, even going for a low percentage rush return (the so-called SABR — Sneak Attack By Roger). Federer had 11 unforced errors from the set, in addition to also also won only 15 of the 45 points.
Federer will serve to open the third set.
SECOND set | NADAL 4, FEDERER 1
Nadal jumps ahead from the second set.
After saving two Federer break points from the third game, Nadal rapidly surged ahead from the second set. He broke Federer at love to lead 3-1, helped by two Federer forehand errors, in addition to also also then quickly consolidated having a hold to 15 of his own for a 4-1 lead.
Nadal has found particular success, as usual, targeting Federer’s backhand: that will side has produced 10 unforced errors, 14 forced errors, in addition to also also just one winner.
SECOND set | NADAL 2, FEDERER 1
Both players save break points early from the second set.
The second game of the second set was the longest game of the match so far, with Federer digging out a hold after 12 points.
Nadal earned two break-point opportunities, although Federer saved both, each time coming forward to the net to finish the point, the first having a smash winner in addition to also also the second having a backhand volley.
Federer carried the momentum through his hold into the next game, earning two break points of his own at 15-40.
Nadal saved them, then closed out the hold with his fifth ace of the match.
First set | Federer WINS, 7-6
Federer claims the first-set tiebreaker, 7-3.
After a set with no breaks of serve, all 5 of the first seven points from the first-set tiebreaker were won by the returner.
Nadal opened having a mini-break, chasing down a short Federer forehand volley in addition to also also flicking This specific up the line having a backhand, leaving Federer to turn in addition to also also look as This specific landed inside the corner. Federer nullified the advantage on the next point, however, forcing a backhand error through Nadal.
Nadal got the edge back from the fifth point, jamming Federer having a looping forehand that will he awkwardly sent back into the net.
Federer then pounced again, leveling the score at 3-3 before the change of ends in addition to also also then taking his first lead having a forehand winner.
Federer then consolidated by winning two points on his serve, giving himself triple set point at 6-3. He won This specific, 7-3. having a forehand winner down the line. Federer is usually at This specific point 6-1 in tiebreakers against Nadal at Wimbledon.
Winning the first set was crucial for Federer: from the 20 times he has lost the first set to Nadal, he has come back to win only twice.
First set | Federer 6, Nadal 6
The first set heads to a tiebreaker.
Federer has generated the only break-point opportunity of the match so far, although Nadal has often known how to stave off such moments of danger in their matches. In their last Wimbledon meeting, in 2008, Nadal saved 12 of 13 break-point chances. Federer also got to 40-40 with Nadal serving at 5-6, although Nadal closed out the game to force a first-set tiebreaker.
First set | Federer 4, Nadal 4
Rallies are in short supply.
Rally length has increased at Wimbledon This specific year; the earlier semifinal between Djokovic in addition to also also Bautista Agut featured a 45-shot rally, the longest at the tournament since 2005, when Wimbledon commenced tracking rallies. So far only three of the first 41 points between Federer in addition to also also Nadal has lasted nine or more shots. The two are struggling to beat each additional through the baseline, with only four groundstroke winners combined so far.
Nadal did save the first break point of the match by winning a 21-shot rally, the longest of the match.
First set | Federer 3, Nadal 3
The servers are in control so far.
This specific has been smooth sailing for the server from the first six games. Nadal surprisingly came into the match with more aces during This specific tournament than Federer, 47-42. Nadal’s coach, Carlos Moya, has focused on improving the serve in addition to also also shortening points. Federer has four aces so far in addition to also also has lost only three points in his three service games. Nadal has lost only two points on his serve.
Unsurprisingly, Centre Court’s Royal Box is usually full of notable names due to This specific match. They include golfers Gary Player in addition to also also Nick Faldo; the TV personalities David Attenborough in addition to also also Bear Grylls; the actors Eric Bana, Hugh Grant, Jude Law in addition to also also Damian Lewis; the singer Leona Lewis; in addition to also also the soccer coach Alex Ferguson.
Players say the Wimbledon grass is usually slow.
One word has been bandied about frequently to describe the courts at Wimbledon This specific year: slow.
Top grass-court players like Federer in addition to also also Petra Kvitova in addition to also also big servers like Milos Raonic in addition to also also Karolina Pliskova have all commented on the pace of the courts.
A slower court means fewer aces in addition to also also longer rallies. Case in point, the earlier semifinal between Djokovic in addition to also also Bautista included a 45-shot rally through the baseline. Martina Navratilova noted the number of players better known for clay-court prowess to reach the later rounds at Wimbledon.
One such player was Guido Pella, 29, who was a quarterfinalist despite only winning two matches at the All England Club in his career before This specific year. He said the courts were “much slower” than from the past.
“I think the matches are more playable than in additional years. You can play through the baseline without any problem. This specific was much easier for us to move, to play like a clay court.”
“Like a clay court” should be music to the ears of Nadal, the greatest clay player in history.
He, of course, hadn’t noticed a difference.
“Honestly, the surface for me is usually the same as always,” he said.
Let’s look back to 2008.
Federer, 37, in addition to also also Nadal, 33, had not played at Wimbledon from the 11 years since Nadal defeated Federer, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7, in a final that will is usually considered one of the greatest matches in tennis history. A book in addition to also also a documentary about the match are called “Strokes of Genius.”
Bjorn Borg, whose 1980 Wimbledon final against John McEnroe is usually quite famous in its own right, called the 2008 final “the best tennis match I’ve ever seen in my life.”
This specific took 4 hours 48 minutes, in addition to also also remains the longest Wimbledon men’s final. This specific was interrupted twice by rain. This specific was so dark by the end, around 9:15 p.m. local time, that will Nadal said, “from the last game, I didn’t see nothing.”
The match was widely viewed at the time as a passing of the torch. The No. 2 Nadal had routed the No. 1 Federer on clay from the French Open final a few weeks before, although dethroning Federer on grass was a huge step in Nadal’s rapid ascension. Federer had beaten Nadal from the Wimbledon final the two previous years. Nadal became the first man since Borg in 1980 to win the French Open in addition to also also Wimbledon from the same year. The next month, Nadal supplanted Federer at No. 1 from the rankings.
Ultimately, though, the torch wasn’t passed so much as This specific was shared. The two are still playing each additional in late rounds of majors. Since the 2008 final, Federer has won eight Grand Slam singles titles for a total of 20, the men’s record, in addition to also also Nadal is usually right behind him with 18. (Djokovic, the No. 1 seed This specific year, has won 14 of his 15 major championships since then.)